When zukes run wild, get cooking

A zucchini cake is a great way to use the plentiful summer squash, and just in time for National Zucchini Day.
A zucchini cake is a great way to use the plentiful summer squash, and just in time for National Zucchini Day. Sacramento Bee file

This is about the time of year when everyone and his brother, mother and second cousin are trying to give away homegrown zucchini squash. (Note: Saturday is designated National Sneak Some Zucchini into Your Neighbor’s Porch Day, or National Zucchini Day for short.)

Yet one can eat only so much of the vegetable grilled, stuffed with meat and cheese, or baked into bread.

Here’s one idea: Fry it and use the crispy pieces as a topping for spaghetti.

The pasta recipe here is super easy, extremely fast and will get kids to (happily) eat their vegetables. It uses ribbony pappardelle instead of spaghetti and the zucchini is cut into thin batons.

Add a couple of good pinches of dry red pepper flakes for heat; you also could add some tiny snips of fresh red peperoncino if you’ve got it growing in your garden. (In the Abruzzo region of Italy, cooks keep tiny scissors on the table for just that purpose.)

For other ideas using those prolific squash, try a cold zucchini soup, zucchini brownies or even a beautiful “zapple” cake.

Fried zucchini pasta

1 pound small zucchini, sliced into thin 1-inch batons

1/4 cup all-purpose flour


1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 pound egg pappardelle or spaghetti

1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

1/2 cup torn basil leaves

Freshly ground pepper

Pinch or two hot red pepper flakes

Lemon wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the flour and a pinch of salt. In a very large skillet, heat half of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the zucchini and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the zucchini to a paper towel-lined wire rack and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining oil and zucchini.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 / 2 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot and toss with the 1 cup of cheese, the basil and a generous pinch of pepper. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time, tossing well to coat. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and top with the crispy zucchini. Season to taste with red pepper flakes and a couple of squeezes of lemon. Serve right away with additional lemon wedges and cheese.

Serves 4

Zapple Bundt cake

Prep time: 35 minutes

Cook time: 65 minutes

This recipe is from “The Classic Zucchini Cookbook” (Storey, $ 16.95, 2002 revision, 312 pages). Co-author Andrea Chesman says the term “zapple” was coined by her son to refer to zucchini that masquerades as apple. And truly, unless you hint, no one will guess this cake is made with zucchini. It’s a moist and spicy cake that travels well.

Note: It is important to let the zucchini mixture cool to room temperature before it is added to the batter. If it is too hot, the heat will activate the baking powder and the batter will rise out of the pan, make a mess and ruin the cake.

The prep time does not include the cool time for the cooked zucchini mixture or the cool time after cake is baked.

4 cups zucchini, peeled, quartered and sliced

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 1/4 cups sugar, divided

2 teaspoons ground ginger

3 1/4 cups unbleached all- purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

3 large eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Powdered sugar for garnish, optional

In a medium saucepan, combine the zucchini and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the sugar, and the ginger. Simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch fluted tube pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and the remain 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then beat in the buttermilk and vanilla until well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Add the zucchini mixture and beat until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.

On a wire rack, cool the cake for 10 minutes. Invert the cake over the rack and cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Serves 16

Per serving: 295 cal.; 5 g pro.; 48 g carb.; 10 g fat (6 sat., 3 monounsat., 1 polyunsat.); 64 mg chol.; 285 mg sod.; 1 g fiber; 29 g sugar; 29 percent calories from fat.

Cold zucchini soup

From “Picnic: 125 Recipes with 29 Seasonal Menus,” by DeeDee Stovel (Storey).

3 medium zucchini, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 medium onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of parsley

1 sprig of thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

4 ½ cups chicken stock, divided

1 ½ cups plain yogurt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

Place zucchini, onion, bay leaf, parsley and thyme in a medium saucepan with 1 cup chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer mixture for about 10 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. Remove bay leaf, parsley and thyme. Purée mixture in a blender or food processor until it is of uniform consistency.

For a smooth soup, strain purée by pressing it through a strainer or sieve with the back of a spoon. An unstrained soup will have a slight texture. Add remaining chicken stock, yogurt, lemon juice, salt and white pepper and stir well to blend. Pour soup into a covered container; chill at least 1 hour.

Serves 8

Zucchini brownies

Not a typical brownie texture, but delicious.

2 cups grated zucchini

1/2 cup ripe mushed banana

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cocoa powder

2/3 to 1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Mix first four ingredients in a bowl. Fold dry ingredients into wet; batter will be stiff. Spread in pan. Bake 15-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool; cut. Keep in airtight container.

Makes 24